When milk or curd is to be added to tomato masala of gravies, bhuno tomatoes well till dry and oil separates before adding the curd or milk. Bhuno-ing well lessens the sourness of the tomatoes and the added milk or curd does not curdle. If the tomatoes are not well bhunoed, there are chances of getting a curdled gravy.
When adding curd to curries, always remember to beat the curd. Remove the masala from fire when adding the curd or milk to the masala. Stir well to mix. Return to low heat.
If your curry turns out a bit oily and pungent, take two bread slices and crumble them coarsely. Add this to the curry and mix well. Bread absorbs the excess oil and spice.
If your gravy becomes too salty, make a few small balls of atta (chappati dough) and put them in the gravy. Give 2-3 boils. Let them remain for some time in the curry. Before serving remove these balls which have absorbed the extra salt.
To thicken gravies and also add flavour to the gravy, grind 1-2 tbsp of soaked cashew nuts or almonds or magaz (watermelon seeds) or chironji to a fine paste. Add to the gravy and relish the difference it makes.
1 tbsp of kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) added to gravies enhances the taste but a little extra may turn the gravy bitter.
Onions and Garlic
Place onions in the fridge for ½-1 hour before chopping them. Your eyes will not water.
Heating the knife before cutting up onions can prevent you from shedding tears.
Soak garlic in water for sometime. It peels easily.
The best way to keep garlic handy is to peel all the flakes and store in a jar of oil. This flavoured oil is great for salads and seasoning.
When using pressure cooker place the days requirement of garlic pods on its lid for 10 minutes. They will be easier to peel.
Add salt to onion when frying (browning), they will brown fast and turn soft sooner.
For garnishing pulaos, etc., fry onions with a pinch of sugar. They will brown faster.
Rice and Dal
To prevent water from overflowing while cooking rice coat the rim of the vessel with butter or ghee.
Add 1-2 slices of lemon or a little lemon juice to rice while cooking. It keeps it white and grainy.
Add 1 tsp of oil to rice while boiling, it will not boil over.
Add a few drops of oil while cooking dals to reduce the cooking time and frothing.
To 1 cup of dal, 3-4 cups of water are generally added depending on the type of dal.
Chappati and Poori
The dough should always be kept away covered for at least ½ hour after kneading. If chappatis are made immediately, they are not soft.
While making chappatis, use hot water to mix the flour. The chappatis will turn out very soft and tasty.
Add a little milk to the dough for fluffier puris.
Before washing the milk utensil, knead the dough in it. You get a softer dough and a cleaner utensil.
For a protein rich diet add ½ kg of soya bean flour to 3 kg wheat flour for making paranthas.
Do not throw away the water after making paneer. Use it for making dough for chappatis, which will give softer, tastier and more nutritive chappatis.
Spread newspaper under the rolling board (chakla) while making chappatis. All the dry flour will fall on the paper and it becomes easy to empty it into the dustbin.
Add a handful of puffed/crushed rice (chirwa or poha) to the pakora batter for extra crisp pakoras.
Add a handful of puffed/crushed rice (chirwa or poha) to the rice while soaking for idlis. You will get fluffier idlis.
If dosas stick to the tawa, cut an onion into half. Clean tawa with the cut side of the onion and a little oil. If this does not help, heat tawa empty very well till almost fuming. Switch off the gas. Let it cool. Then reheat and make dosas. Dosas will not stick.
To add more flavour to dosas, add a few methi daana (fenugreek seeds) to the batter. And taste the difference!
To make neat and crisp dosas, everytime you apply oil on the tawa, sprinkle salt water over it.
Salt should be added to the dosa batter before it is kept for fermentation.
Often the first dosa sticks to the tawa and refuses to come out. This can be solved by greasing the tawa with oil and a pinch of salt.
Add a little dahi (yogurt) to dahi vada batter to get softer vadas. They will also absorb less oil while frying.
For getting a thick, crisp coating on cutlets or rolls, dip the prepared snack in eggwhite beaten with a few tbsp of water and then roll in fine bread crumbs. If you do not take eggs, dip them in a thin batter of maida and water and then roll in bread crumbs. Fry till well browned.
In the absence of bread crumbs, suji may be used to get a crisp coating.
If your cutlets fall apart, dip some bread slices in water for a second, squeeze it and add to the cutlet mixture. You may also add a raw egg to the cutlet mixture for binding instead of the bread, if you take eggs.
Wrap sandwiches without cutting the sides, in foil or cling wrap to keep them soft. Cut the crust only at the time of serving to prevent the edges from drying.
To make crisp potato chips, soak them in cold water for 1 hour. Drain. Wipe dry and deep fry.
To get extra crisp chips, sprinkle the soaked, dried chips with some maida (plain flour) before frying. Maida absorbs any excess water present.
For deep frying any snack, add small quantities to the oil at one time. This maintains the oil's temperature. If too many pieces are added together, the oil turns cold and a lot of oil is then absorbed by the snack.
After deep frying, let the oil cool down. Add a little quantity of fresh oil to used oil before reusing. This prevents oil from discolouring.
Important Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes
Measure the ingredients with great care. Using correct amounts of ingredients is more important than the beating of the cakes.
Invest in a good electric hand mixer. It simplifies your work besides giving good results. Always beat in one direction.
To beat the egg whites light as air, they should be at room temperature while beating. Always use a clean, dry bowl and beater for beating.
While using raisins or dry fruits or peels in a cake, first coat them with a little flour (maida) and then add to the batter. They will then not sink to the bottom of the cake.
Remember to always sift the baking powder with the maida at the time of making the cake.
Never use baking powder which is more than a year old. Check the manufacturing date on the container.
Always preheat the oven at the temperature at which you have to bake your cake for at least 10 minutes.
Always grease your baking tin and dust (sprinkle) with flour (maida).
Baking should always be done in aluminium containers.
Do not open the oven door again and again to check the cake as this causes variation in the temperature and hence affects the baking.
Test your cake with a clean knife at the place where the cake has risen the most, i.e. at the highest point, before removing from the oven.
Permit the cake to cool for sometime before you remove it from the tin.
Never cool a cake under the fan as this will make the cake hard.
What Went Wrong With Your Cake
A Heavy Cake: Too little baking powder; too much flour; mixture not creamed enough; flour mixed too vigorously; oven too slow.
A Dry Cake: Too much baking powder or flour; not enough fat or liquid; too long in the oven.
A Sunken Cake: Too much liquid, baking powder or sugar; too little flour; oven door slammed or cake moved during baking; taken out from oven too soon.
A Peaked Cake: Insufficient fat or baking powder; too much flour; oven temperature too high.
A Badly Cracked Top: Oven too hot; cake tin too small; too much flour; not enough liquid.
Fruit Sunk to the Bottom: Fruit not properly dried; cake mixture too thin; fruit added before adding flour.
Microwave Cooking Tips
Never over-cook food in a microwave as it becomes tough and leathery. Give the dish a little standing time before you test it, to avoid over cooking.
Never pile food on top of each other. It cooks better, evenly and quickly when spaced apart.
Food cooks better in a round container than in a square one. In square or rectangular bowls, food gets overcooked at the corners.
Do not add salt at the time of starting the cooking as it leads to increase in the cooking time.
Do not add more water than required, however a little water must be added to prevent dehydration of the vegetable, which results in the loss of natural juices. Addition of extra water increase the cooking time.
Do not deep fry in a microwave (the temperature of oil cannot be controlled).
Do not cook eggs in their shells (pressure will cause them to explode).
Do not cook and reheat puddings having alcohol (they can easily catch fire).
Do not use containers with restricted openings, such as bottles.
Use deep dishes to prepare gravies, filling the dish only 3/4 to avoid spillage.
Do not defrost canned foodstuff.
Do not use aluminium foil for covering dishes. Do not reheat foods (sweets like ladoos, burfi etc.) with silver sheet, as it leads to sparking.
Fill the cake tin 3/4 with cake batter, allowing space for cake to rise.